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I hear a lot of people talking about “bucket lists” anymore. Maybe it has something to do with the age group I find myself in, where friends have certain things they want to accomplish while they’re still able to do so. I don’t really have a formal “bucket list” as such, and the few things that might be on it aren’t all that lofty, but there some things out there that I’d be interested in doing (or cars I’d be interested in owning) given the chance. Attending Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attending a high performance driving school, and owning another midyear (’63-‘67) Corvette, for example, are a few things that might pop up on my “non-list”. Earlier this summer I was given a unique opportunity to attend an automotive event that certainly could qualify for the bucket lists of many of my car guy buddies; I was asked if I was interested in attending the Hot Rod Power Tour with the crew from Dakota Digital. Many of you know that Dakota Digital, based here in Sioux Falls, is a leader in the field of specialty automotive and motorcycle instruments. They are an official sponsor of the Hot Rod Power Tour, and the role I was to play in all of this was: truck driver for the display rig, assistant photographer and all-purpose employee. Once asked, it was a quick matter of checking my really-full-retired-person calendar, and promptly letting them know that I was on board for the whole thing!
In preparing for the trip, I learned that the Hot Rod Power Tour for 2015 consisted of seven car shows, in seven different cities, over the course of seven days. The event would begin in Madison, WI, for a kick-off cruise-in, then participants would drive 200-300 miles daily to the next location for more automotive entertainment at a new location. Various venues would have different activities; some of those included autocross racing, drag racing, autograph sessions, the world’s largest burnout attempt, dyno challenges, cruise nights, trivia challenges, and more. Of course, each location would host a car show of Power Tour entrants as well as local enthusiasts. Major corporate sponsors would be on hand daily at each location. This promised to be a fantastic opportunity for a car guy like me, even in a work capacity!
On Friday, June 5th, I towed away from Dakota Digital with Ross Ortman (owner) and Greg Karpe (sales associate) on board. This was just a travel day, and we arrived in Madison, WI, that afternoon in time to check out many of the corporate hot rods and displays that were already present at the Alliant Energy Center. Chevrolet Performance was the overall primary sponsor of the Power Tour, so I was happy to take this opportunity to get an early look at the array of Chevrolet Performance vehicles present!
Saturday morning kicked off the event for us with what became the routine for the next several days: early morning set-up, a full day of interacting with customers, take down and load the display around 6pm, then travel to the next location. After set-up daily, I was generally free to roam the event and check out the activities of each particular venue. Once that was accomplished, I spent a good part of each day in the Dakota Digital booth assisting with customers. At the Alliant Energy Center Coliseum there were nearly 3000 registered participants of the Power Tour. This made for an impressive opening day car show, with autocross racing being another major event of the day. All the participants that I visited with were having a blast on this first day of Power Tour!
After a great opening day in Madison, we headed 240 miles down the road to Champaign, IL, for Sunday’s event on the grounds of Parkland College. Participants were rolling in well in advance of the noon start time for this day’s event and the grounds were soon filled with another great collection of vehicles. By now, I had learned that it wasn’t just traditional “hot rods” that do the Power Tour; there were trucks, school buses and motorhomes (highly modified), vintage cars, classics, pro-mods, late models, you name it…all joined in the fun. It really makes for quite a spectacle! Another cool part of the Sunday event was an evening at a local drive-in movie theater. (We missed that, however. We were already on the road to the next venue!)
Next stop: Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, IL, a St. Louis suburb, a short 180 miles down the road. Monday here featured the usual car show and manufacturer’s midway coupled with ¼ mile “fun runs” on the dragstrip. What car guy doesn’t enjoy the chance to try out the car on a sanctioned drag strip to see what it’ll do? A note about the car show here; it’s not the same cars you’re looking at every day. While many Power Tour participants travel to all 7 events (called “Long Haulers”), several folks choose to do 1-6 “legs” of the tour based on their time available. Local area rodders come out daily, too, so this makes for an everchanging car show daily. There’s always something new to enjoy!
After a 290 mile drive, we found ourselves at Memphis International Raceway, in Memphis, TN, for Tuesday’s festivities. The car show, “fun runs” on the dragstrip, and automotive personality autograph sessions again were going on, but one highlight of the day was the Guinness World Record “Simultaneous Burnout Attempt” held that afternoon. After some coaxing, 114 cars were lined up side-by-side on the dragstrip for one mass burnout of at least 30 seconds. (The previous record was 103.) I was right at trackside for the attempt, and it was a pretty amazing thing to see! Heavy smoke, burning tire bits, and some broken parts were the outcome, but I understand the record was set, at least temporarily. Later that evening, a large contingent headed to Beale Street in downtown Memphis for an evening of Blues and Bar-B-Que!
We didn’t make it to Beale Street, however, as we departed Memphis that evening and travelled 260 miles to the next day’s show location: Hoover, Alabama. At Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Wednesday, in addition to the car show, Vic Edelbrock, Courtney Hansen, Miss Hot Rod, and others were signing autographs, and dyno runs, games, and seminars were the order of the day. At this point, with our full schedule and the heat and humidity of the Deep South, we were all starting to run down a bit!
The last day for our Dakota Digital crew was Thursday, in Gulfport, MS. Power Tour would actually go to Baton Rouge, LA, the next day, but time commitments dictated that we would head home Thursday evening. Gulfport was my favorite location of all; gentle water-cooled breezes kept us comfortable and large mature trees gave plenty of shade in the show area. Wandering the car show here made for a most enjoyable last day!
So, what was my overall impression? If you’re an enthusiast that enjoys longer distance cruising, it’s an event that’s definitely worth considering. Doing all legs of the Tour may be a bit much for many people, but to do a couple of them sure looks like a great time! I’m pleased that I can scratch this off my “nonexistent” bucket list, even though I did it in a work capacity. Would I do it again? You bet I would! Now the question becomes: through work or in my own car?